Saturday, November 28, 2009

Government Based Upon Natural Law - (Part 8) - Foreign Trade, Foreign Relations, and Foreign Aid


"I saw that you could not separate the idea of commerce from the idea of war and peace. You could not have serious war anywhere in the world and expect commerce to go on as before. And I saw that wars were often caused by economic rivalry. I thereupon came to believe that if we could increase commercial exchanges among nations over lowered trade and tariff barriers and remove international obstacles to trade, we would go a long way toward eliminating war itself."

Cordell Hull, former Secretary of State, in his memoirs after observing two world wars

Foreign Relations

We should have cordial relations with all countries who act peacefully. No peaceful country ought to be afraid that the United States will ever attempt to conquer it or forcibly take away its natural resources.

To countries or groups that have ill intentions toward us, our firm message should be: It would be a grave mistake to attack us, because you will end up suffering more than we will. “Speak softly and carry a big stick” was not bad advice from Teddy Roosevelt.

We ought not to preach to other countries about how they should behave, or what their economic or political systems should be. This has frequently led to them resenting us, rather than appreciating our good intentions. The World Bank and the International Monetary Fund attempt to do this, and we should have nothing to do with them.

Rather, we should be humble and set a good example for other countries to follow. What this means politically is that our government should protect our right to be free to live our lives as we deem best, as long as we don’t interfere with the right of others to do the same. What this means individually is that each of us ought to love our Creator and love others, by treating others as children of our Creator, and by using our talents to help make the world a better place.

As mentioned in a previous part, we should not have our military stationed in any other countries, unless we are at war. This has created enmity and dependency, as well costing taxpayers a great deal of money. It may help to create temporary stability in a given region, but is this truly our business?

Foreign Trade

Allow free trade with all nations. Free trade, not aid, is the best way to help other nations to become more prosperous.

Benjamin Franklin said, “No nation was ever ruined by trade.”

George Washington, the Father of our nation said, “The great rule of conduct for us in regard to foreign nations is in extending our commercial relations, and to have with them as little political connection as possible.”

And Jefferson said, “Peace, commerce, and honest friendship with all nations but entangling alliances with none.”

It would be well to heed these three of the most influential men in the history of our country.

Furthermore, free trade with foreign nations possibly offers one of the best solutions to avoiding war. We went to war with Japan over 60 years ago. Within a few decades, we were buying a great deal of goods from Japan, who then became dependent on trade with us. Do you think that they would consider going to war with us now, even if they thought they could win?

Similarly, China’s economy is closely tied to ours, and they are very desirous of us having a robust economy, so that theirs can thrive. Thus, the more trade we have with other countries, the more we reduce the risk of war with them, and the more prosperous they and we become. It is truly a win-win scenario.

Also, there is no reason to not have trade with Cuba. Cuba has not threatened the United States since the Cuban Missile Crisis in the 1960s. We may not like some of their domestic policies, but that is none of our business. Cubans and Americans would benefit from trade between our nations.

Trade protectionism does not have a history of working well for our country. For instance, in 1930, the year after the stock-market crash, the Smoot-Hawley Tariff Act imposed an effective tax rate of 60% on more than 3,200 products and materials imported into the U.S., quadrupling previous tariff rates. Although the tariff act was passed after the stock-market crash of 1929, many economic historians consider the political discussion leading up to the passing of the act as a factor in causing the crash and/or the recession that began in late 1929, and its eventual passage as a factor in deepening the Great Depression. Unemployment was at 7.8% in 1930 when the Smoot-Hawley tariff was passed, but it jumped to 16.3% in 1931, 24.9% in 1932, and 25.1% in 1933.

Another important point is that when people of good will trade with each other, they naturally get to know each other. And they frequently find out that these “foreigners” usually have the same values that we do. For instance, they also want the best for their families and for their country. So free trade has the side effect of producing friendships that might not normally be made.

However, free trade cannot occur if countries subsidize their industries. For instance, the U.S. subsidizes farming (often run by large corporations and often at the behest of a strong Farm Lobby), which makes it harder for poor nations to export food to us, leaving them and us poorer. It has been proven that there is always a net benefit when we are allowed to buy and trade with those who make the best product for the best price, wherever they happen to be in the world. And the best way to make this happen is to allow individuals and companies to buy or trade with whomever they wish. This is not a guarantee, but there is no better way to achieve prosperity for all humans. Beside, freedom is the American way.

Congress can and should restrict the trade of goods or services that could harm national security, such as the sale of weaponry to countries that are hostile to us. Also, any imported goods would have to meet the same health and safety standards as domestically made items. For instance, any cars we import must meet the same standards as domestically made cars. Inspections of such goods, which should be made by our government, should be paid for by the company who is selling them. Otherwise, Congress should not restrict trade with other countries.

Developing countries are welcome to ask foreign companies, such as those in the U.S. and elsewhere, to start companies in their country. This may benefit the developing country by attracting the talent and resources needed in order to grow economically. Of course, this would always be up to the home country.

Foreign Aid

The U.S. ought not to subsidize other nations, or provide continuous foreign aid to any nation. However, the U.S. may provide temporary humanitarian aid to a nation or nations due to natural disasters or other such events.

Continual foreign aid contributes to corruption and to dependency. It also can create enmity toward our country in that other countries may wonder why their country is not getting any of our money. And, not infrequently, this money is used to purchase weapons, and buy power, rather than help the people for whom it is intended.

It may also prolong conflicts, as I believe it has done in the Middle East.

This is not meant to be a restriction on individuals or organizations, who may give time and money to whomever they wish (again with the restriction that no goods or services may be provided to individuals, groups, or countries that could harm our national security.) ______________________________________

Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.
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Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Are you Thankful for your Bathroom?

For this 2009 Thanksgiving, I thought I'd remind us to give thanks for things we don't usually remember to give thanks for.

Things for which we Should Express our Gratitude

Last night I went to the bathroom to take a shower. You won't believe this, but our shower has hot and cold running water, and the amount of water coming through the showerhead can be adjusted! How great is that? Less than a century ago, most people in the United States could not claim this. Most would have to go to back to an outhouse, not a bathroom. And once-a-week baths, shared by all family members were the norm.

Anyone want to go back a hundred years again and lose half the children that are born to a woman before that child is five?

Anyone want to go back to using horses as our main mode of transportation? Don't forget to clean up the manure, and shoo away the flies it attracts, and to close your nose while doing it.

Anyone want to go back before there was heat and air conditioning, sanitation, toilets, vaccines, or modern medicine?


Anyone want to give up their cell phones, computers, jets, GPS, and other technological marvels that make our lives so much simpler to communicate with anyone, anywhere almost for free?

Anyone want to go back before the 1990's when the World Wide Web came to prominence, bringing mankind's knowledge to anyone who had an Internet connection?

Every year, scientists are finding out how special our Universe is, and how special our Earth is – if a few things had been off by just a little life would not even exist. For instance, if the strength of gravity were off just a little, our Universe would not be fit for life. The Universe and Earth are more beautiful than anyone even 50 years ago could have imagined. Anyone want to take a chance and jump to another planet in another Universe at random? You go first.

Anyone want to go back and live during a world war? Due to our technology, our presidents, and our military, we have not been in a world war for over 60 years.

Anyone in the United States want to go back to a time before there was freedom of thought, freedom of press, freedom of religion, freedom of trade, or freedom of association?

Anyone want to go back before the days of the Hubble Telescope and the awe-inspiring images it has sent to us?

Anyone want to go back to before people of all skin colors, and religious backgrounds could get the jobs they were qualified for, could get to sit in the same restaurants, and could get elected to be the President of the United States?

Expressing our Gratitude Every Day

It hard for all of us to remember to be thankful for the many gifts bestowed up on us by our Creator and His Creation, and by the inventions of His children. Here is prayer I learned from a friend, now deceased, that I try to say every day:

"Dear God, thank you for the love, beauty, health, peace and prosperity manifesting in my life. Please guide me in the furtherance of Your work."

And after my evening prayers, I try to remember to say the following:

"I send out love, peace, and goodwill to all of God's children."


A Side Benefit of being Grateful

The more we express gratitude for all that we have, the better we feel about ourselves and the healthier we are, physically, emotionally and spiritually.

And our “attitude of gratitude” is contagious. Others around us respond to it. Imagine a world in which we all express gratitude daily. Our world would be transformed overnight. How thankful would we be for that!

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Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Government Based Upon Natural Law - (Part 5) - Border Security and Immigration Policy


Border and Port Security
A primary responsibility of the federal government is to secure our borders, and our borders are clearly not currently secure. Every effort should be made to secure them so that it would be virtually impossible to enter our country illegally. Our borders need not necessarily have a literal fence. Rather, we may be able to use technology in conjunction with the border patrol and/or military to monitor our borders.

Our ports should be secured using the troops that we bring home from overseas. In particular, incoming cargo should be checked for nuclear devices or other weapons that pose threats to our national security.

Immigration Policy

1) Immigration is very important to the U.S. Our immigration policy should welcome many of the best people from all over the world who wish to immigrate to the United States.

Each potential immigrant should be subject to a background check and a medical exam, and we should attempt to discern whether or not the potential immigrant has abilities that are needed by our country. We should also attempt to discern whether this individual believes in the value of properly raising and educating his or her children, as well as his or her belief in the brotherhood of mankind. Also, knowledge of the English language should be required before an immigrant becomes a permanent resident or a citizen. (A person in the U.S. that does not speak English is a considerable disadvantage to himself and to our country.)

Our goal should be to allow into our country only those immigrants who will become exemplary U.S. citizens.

2) There are many illegal immigrants currently in the U.S.; it would be untenable to deport all of these illegal immigrants. Thus, the first priority should be to secure our borders, before attempting to deal with those illegal immigrants already here.

While we are doing this, we can start issuing tamper-proof ID cards with biometric information to all of our current and future immigrants, as well as our citizens. These IDs would be used as we now use driver’s licenses, which are now the de facto ID cards. This would make it easier for the government to keep track of our immigrants. One secondary benefit is that it would make life easier for our legal immigrants. For example, individuals here on a student visa could use their ID card to easily prove their legal status to a university. Also, having such IDs gives the U.S. a better way to determine who is eligible for certain benefits, such as educational subsidies, health-care subsidies, and the previously-mentioned Natural-Resource Tax Dividend, as well as such things as improving airport security. Congress should pass laws that are explicit about when such IDs may be used, and that also state that these IDs cannot be used for any other purpose.

3) Current illegal immigrants who substantially violate our laws should be deported, after serving any incarceration time.

4) Once our borders are secure and the ID cards are in place, those illegal immigrants that have been here a reasonable amount of time, and have beneficially contributed to our country, may be granted a legal status and eventually a permanent status (such as by being given a green card). However, they should not be granted citizenship, since this would be unfair to those immigrants who came or will come here legally. This would serve as an additional disincentive to coming here illegally. It would also make politicians less likely to quickly legalize illegal immigrants in order to get more votes.

The current wave of illegal immigrants has its most harmful effects on our schools and on our public health care resources. Our schools must now deal with large numbers of students who do not speak English. This is very stressful to our educational system and expensive for our schools to deal with.

Illegal immigration has put a tremendous strain on our health care resources. For instance, in the first three months of 2006 at Parkland Hospital in Dallas, 70% of all births were babies born to illegal immigrants, and Parkland now has more than 16,000 births recorded there each year. Furthermore, the out-of-wedlock birthrate among illegal immigrants is substantially higher than that of our citizens and our legal immigrants.

Securing our borders will do much to decrease the number of individuals who enter our country illegally.


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Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.

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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

A Million Here, a Zillion There…


Government Debt Made Simple

Have you been scrupulously paying your way out of debt using one of those "Get out of Debt Now" programs? Or maybe you're already debt free. I'm sorry to say this, but you are so wrong. You may be personally out of debt but your beloved federal government has been taking you in the opposite direction.

Let's start with some government debt and deficit numbers, numbers so big that they are almost meaningless. But just for you, I'll reduce these numbers to what they would mean for an average family, so that you can get appropriately incensed. Frankly, most newspaper and magazine articles just stick with the big numbers, and we the people can only wonder what a trillion dollars means, and whether or not a zillion dollars is more or less than a trillion dollars. (Just for the record, a "zillion" is not real, but it is only slightly less not real than a trillion).

So bear with me for giving you the big numbers and I'll soon get to some numbers one can actually understand. You can even skip the next section if you start to get a headache.

Here are the Big Numbers

The National Debt as of November, 2009 is about $12 trillion. The federal government expects the National Debt to be $14 trillion for the fiscal year 2010. Just for perspective, four years ago in 2006, the National Debt was about $9 trillion.

Federal spending for fiscal 2009 was around $4 trillion. (Or was that $4 zillion?) The 2009 deficit was about $1.8 trillion. This means that the federal government spent $1.8 trillion more than it took in during the 2009 fiscal year.

Interest paid during the 2009 fiscal year on the National Debt was $380 billion, about 9% of the entire federal budget. No debt was paid off, but plenty of debt was added.

During the month of October, 2009 (the start of the 2010 fiscal year), the federal government spent $178 billion more than it received in taxes – the $178 billion was "only" the deficit spending, just for that one month. The federal government actually spent over $330 billion in October. Don't try this at home.

Over a year, this would amount to over $2 trillion in deficit spending. And that is the actual deficit estimate expected by the federal government for 2010. This will increase our National Debt to $14 trillion, and the interest we will pay on that will be about $440 billion.

Here are the Same Numbers Given on a Per-Family Basis

To put this in perspective, I'm going to rewrite the information given above on a per-family basis, so that it is understandable to us humans. It isn't hard to do once you know that there are about 110 million households in the U.S. If you had a headache, now is the time to start reading again. Your headache will get worse.

The National Debt as of November, 2009 is about $109,000 per family. (Never doubt my math skills). The federal government expects the National Debt to be $128,000 per family for the fiscal year 2010. Just for perspective, four years ago in 2006, the National Debt was about $82,000 per family. Shame on you for increasing your debt so quickly.

Federal spending for fiscal 2009 was around $36,000 per family. The 2009 deficit was about $16,300 per family. This means that the federal government spent $16,300 per family more than it took in during the 2009 fiscal year.

Interest paid during the 2009 fiscal year on the National Debt was about $3,500 per family, about 9% of the entire federal budget. No debt was paid off, but plenty of debt was added.

During the month of October, 2009 (the start of the 2010 fiscal year), the federal government spent $1,600 per family more than it received in taxes – the $1,600 per family was "only" the deficit spending, just for that one month. The federal government actually spent over $3,000 per family in October. Go ahead and try this at home for a few months and let me know how it turns out.

Over a year, this would amount to over $19,000 per family in deficit spending. And that is the actual deficit estimate expected by the federal government for 2010. This will increase our National Debt to $128,000 per family, and the interest we will pay on that will be about $4,400 per family.

Did You Have Any Idea That We Were in This Much Debt?

Did you know that your family accumulated an additional $16,700 debt in 2009? And that your family's total debt as a result of federal spending will be $128,000 within a year? And that you'll be paying $4,400 just to pay the interest on that debt?

Not to worry, it's easy to solve this problem. Each family just needs to give the federal government an additional $128,000 next year.

I'm sending my money in tomorrow.

Enjoy Your New Debt

This debt is not like student loans that accumulate while a student is getting an education, and then are paid off when the student gets a job. This debt has grown during every presidential administration since 1969 and has dramatically increased over the last few years. Each year it takes up a larger fraction of federal spending, and shows no sign of letting up. (I won't scare you by telling you how much more debt will be added just to keep up with our Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid obligations.  You wouldn't believe it anyway.)

Solutions to Our National Debt Problems

Actually, there are no realistic political solutions. As most of you know, our politicians do not have the courage to face up to this, because any solutions they come up with will be unpopular with a large number of groups, and this will decrease their chances of getting elected (or re-elected), which is the most important consideration for many politicians. For instance, we'd certainly have to increase the minimum age needed to get full Social Security benefits and/or decrease the amount of the benefit. I wouldn't be happy about this myself, but them's the bitter truth. (Why isn't my grammar checker working?)

But I'm not a politician, thankfully, so here are some realistic solutions that can and should, but won't be done:

1) Pass a balanced budget amendment.  (To be realistic, it could go into effect in, say, 15 years, just to give the government time to rein in spending). After that, no more debt would be accumulated. Texas and many other states have such amendments, and it has suffered less through the current recession than most of the rest of the country.

2) Allow federal spending to increase only at the rate of inflation, and population growth. Tax receipts will normally increase faster than this, so we could then start paying down the National Debt.

I could list lots of other items here, but if we do these, you and I would be happy campers (or at least I would). Think anyone could get elected to the presidency with those two items on their platform? Neither do I.

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Tim Farage is a Senior Lecturer in the Computer Science Department at The University of Texas at Dallas. You are welcome to comment upon this blog entry and/or to contact him at tfarage@hotmail.com.

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